Sipeed Launches Promised Sub-$20 Nezha Alternative, the RISC-V-Powered LicheeRV

Company beats its aggressive price point, though full functionality will require optional carrier boards — not available until December.

Sipeed has officially launched its Allwinner D1-based combination single-board computer (SBC) and system-on-module (SOM), the LicheeRV — and has a range of carrier boards in the works to make full use of the system-on-chip's functionality.

Sipeed originally teased the at-the-time unnamed device two months ago, promising a sub-$20 price point for substantially the same specifications as the $99 Nezha — the first commercial board built around Allwinner's D1. It's a price point the company has hit, though getting the most out of the device will require a carrier board to break out otherwise-unavailable peripherals.

The board is built around Allwinner's D1 system-on-chip, which features a XuanTie C906 single-core 1GHz RISC-V processor with pre-ratification vector and some vendor-specific extensions, a HiFi4 digital-signal processor (DSP), and G2D graphics accelerator. To this, Sipeed has added 512MB of DDR3 memory, microSD storage, an SPI interface for an optional 1.14" color display, and a USB Type-C On-The-Go (OTG) port plus four-pin UART header.

It's a short list of ports, but it's a small board. While technically functional as a single-board computer, it's clear most will be choosing to make use of the LicheeRV as a system-on-module — connecting it to optional breakout boards through two M.2 B-key connectors at the board's base.

So far the company has teased two carrier boards, which it hopes will launch in December: One converts the board into a Raspberry Pi Zero-style form factor with HDMI, a 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, a microphone, USB, and HDMI; the other, the LicheeRV-86, includes a 480x480 color touchscreen display, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB Ethernet, and dual microphones.

As an Allwinner D1 device, software support is somewhat limited at present. Allwinner itself has a custom operating system, Tina Linux, based on a fork of an older release of OpenWRT, and there's official support for a Debian-based desktop. The RISC-V and Linux communities are working on additional support, with some alternative distributions available in beta now, but work to mainline D1 support is still ongoing.

The LicheeRV is now available to order from AliExpress at $16.90 for the bare board or $22 with optional display.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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